Tamara Frankel (PEP '09-'11) is in her second year of
teaching at Chicagoland Jewish High School.
It’s one of the first sunny days in Chicago this spring and my students beg me to take them outside for class. We negotiate and decide to review our homework in class, on the board, and then go outside to start the next sugya. Eleven rambunctious and extremely insightful freshmen sit on the grass beside the bleachers while I stand up top. I ask my students to imagine that they are at the foot of Mount Sinai and that God is holding the mountain over their heads, expecting—maybe even threatening—them to accept the Torah. If not, they will die.
My students think I’m crazy. I tell them that Rav Avdimi recounts this dramatic “filling-in-the-gaps” of a pasuk in Shmot 19:17: “ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר” “And they [the Israelites] stood at attention at the foot of the mountain”. For a moment, I’m off the hook; I could never make up this story! Continue reading →
In Rabbi Meir Schewiger’s Parashat ha-Shavuah (weekly Torah Portion) class, while learning Sefer Shemot (Book of Exodus), we spoke about the desert as a place where one goes to prepare for Torah study. When B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) leave Egypt, they flee through the desert and are on the run until they get to Yam Suf (Red Sea) and cross to safety. Even after getting to Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai) and receiving the Torah, they still spend another 40 years in the desert wandering and preparing to enter into the Land. On the festival of Shavuot, we celebrate Zman Matan Torateinu (our receiving of the Torah at Sinai). We have just finished counting the Omer, the period of time from Pesach up to Shavuot and while we have now received the Torah and have celebrated this by a long night of learning and Torah study, B’nei Yisrael is still in the desert. For the rest of this year, leading up to the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) and Simchat Torah, we will continue to follow them as they travel through the wilderness in preparation for their entry into Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel). I liked the idea of the desert as a place for preparation and when I thought back over the last few years of my life I began to like it even more.
In the fall of 2010, I had been living and working at home in Connecticut, teaching in the Jewish community for a year after graduating college and I was ready for a change. I volunteered with the Kibbutz Program Center and after consulting with friends of friends, was placed on Kibbutz Yahel in the very south of Israel, about a 40 minutes north of Eilat in a region called the Arrava. Arrava means wilderness and this was exactly what I found when I got there. This was the absolute middle of Continue reading →
What A Pardes Student Thinks About on Mother’s Day
(if they hold by it)
I think about you most when I’m walking around Jerusalem. It is so beautiful- tiny curved streets with antique stone houses. Everything is a little bit smaller and closer together (perfectly sized for me) or maybe it all just seems little and quaint because every building has to be uncovered by your eyes from all of the amazing plants. Tall thin trees, tropical flowers in huge bushes full, palm trees, vines in full like trees themselves all covered with flowers I’ve never seen before.
Walking down the street you’re suddenly overcome by some new fragrance. It’s half amazement at the smell and half curiosity that makes me stop in my tracks and investigate the new color/ shape/ feel of some completely unique flower. I always think how you would love all of the flowers, and I like to imagine in those moments that if you were here you would Continue reading →
Sarah Margles (Year '02, PEP '04) reflects upon preparing
for Shavuot... what does "readiness" mean?
I remember when I first started at Pardes, I would spend much of Fridays getting ready for Shabbat – shopping, cooking, cleaning. When the siren went to light candles, my roommate would inevitably yell out, while running from the bathroom in a towel, “But I’m not ready!!” When we speak of Jewish holidays, we often say things like, “The holidays are so early this year,” or “I love it when Pesach is late.” There is something about readiness that seems integral to our Jewish experience.
Shavuot has a lot to teach about readiness. In Shmot 19:11, as the people are getting ready to receive Torah, God tells Moses to tell the people to go prepare for God will arrive on the third day. But Continue reading →
In the Gemara, Shabbat is defined by the work that surrounds it and goes into preparing for it. We light the Sabbath candles to mark the beginning of Shabbat and light the Havdallah candle to mark its conclusion. Shabbat, therefore is book-ended, suspended in time between these two rituals of light. Interestingly enough, lighting a flame is the only Continue reading →
Seven Species of Israel – glass bottle by Avigayle Adler (PEP 2003-05)
Grapes, Pomegranates, Olives, Dates, Figs, Wheat and Barley have a special significance to the Land of Israel and are given special mention and priority on Tubishevat, the Jewish New Year for trees. Indeed they have priority when blessing food as well. I have always been enchanted with Continue reading →
What if we were all self absorbed and never helped one another? Could you imagine never grasping a hand if you stumbled, or borrowing a bit of money in a pinch. What would our world look like if we never supported each other? Emotionally. Financially. Physically. Spiritually. Would you ever feel empowered or strong? In this week’s double Parsha Behar / Behukotai it says
If your brother becomes destitute and his hand falters beside you, you shall support him [whether] a convert or a resident, so that he can live with you.
The Torah uses the word החזקת to describe support. Not help, or fix, or take care of. We are talking about support, with the word חזק (hazak) seen inside the Hebrew. Hazak is strength. We are being instructed to strengthen our brother when he falters. Note, that it is not when he has fallen. For we should be aware and Continue reading →